What is Organizational Behavior? | Definition, Importance, Model

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Topic Covered: What is Organizational Behavior (OB), definition, history, concepts, features & characteristics, need, objectives, key elements, contributing disciplines, why study, challenges, models of Organizational Behavior.

Organizations have realized that their success depends not so much on the effectiveness of their systems and processes, as on the effectiveness of their human resources. The success or failure of organizations is determined to a great extent by their employees.

What is Organizational Behavior (OB)?

Organizational behavior (OB) is defined as the systematic study and application of knowledge about how individuals and groups act within the organizations where they work.

It is the study of human behavior in organizational settings, how human behavior interacts with the organization, and the organization itself. Organizational behavior theories inform real-world evaluation and management of groups of people.

To sum up our definition, OB is the study of what people do in an organization and how their behavior affects the organization’s performance. And because OB is concerned specifically with employment-related situations, you should not be surprised that it emphasizes behavior as related to concerns such as jobs, work, absenteeism, employment turnover, productivity, human performance, and management.

Organizational Behavior (OB) Definition

A field of study that investigates the impact of individuals, groups and structures on behaviour within organisations for the purpose of applying such knowledge towards improving an Organisation’s effectiveness.

Stephen P Robbins

Organizational behavior can be defined as the understanding; prediction and management of the human behavior affect the performance of the organizations.


History of Organizational Behavior (OB)

Scientific Management Approach

Scientific management approach was developed by F.W. Taylor at the beginning of the 20th century. This theory supported the use of certain steps in scientifically studying each element of a job, selecting and training the best workers for the job arid making sure that the workers follow the prescribed method of doing the job. It provided a scientific rationale for job specialization and mass production. His assumption was that employees are motivated largely by money.

Bureaucratic Approach

While scientific management was focusing on the interaction between workers and the task. Instead of trying to make each worker more efficient, classical organization theory sought the most effective overall organizational structure for workers and managers.

Max Weber, proposed a ‘bureaucratic form’ of structure, which he thought would work for all organizations Henry Ford, Henry Fayol and Frederick W. Taylor, the early management pioneers, recognized the behavioral side of management. However, they did not emphasize the human dimensions.

Hawthorne Studies

The real beginning of applied research in the area of organizational behaviour started with Hawthorne Experiments. In 1924, a group of professors began an enquiry into the human aspects of work and working conditions at the Hawthorne plant of Western Electric Company, Chicago.

Read: Personality in Organisational Behavior | Determinants, Definition

Organizational Behavior Concepts

The fundamental concepts of organizational behavior are;

  • Individual Differences.
  • Perception
  • A whole Person
  • Motivated Behavior
  • The desire for Involvement
  • The value of the Person
  • Human Dignity
  • Organizations are Social System
  • Mutuality of Interest
  • Holistic Concept

Features or characteristics of Organizational Behavior (OB)

Characteristics or Features of Organizational Behavior are:

  1. Separate Field of Study and not a Discipline Only

    OB is based on multi-interdisciplinary orientation and is, thus, it is not based on a specific theoretical background.

  2. An Interdisciplinary Approach

    Organizational behavior is an applied behavioral science built on contributions from a number of behavioral disciplines, mainly psychology and social psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

  3. Applied Science

    OB can be called both science as well as art because it involve both applied research and its application in organizational analysis. 

  4. Normative Science

    OB describes how the findings of applied research can be applied to socially accepted organizational goals whereas the positive science discusses the only cause-effect relationship

  5. Humanistic and Optimistic Approach

    OB deals with the people and their interaction with organisations.

  6. Total System Approach

    System approach is one that integrates all the variables, affecting organizational functioning.

Read: What is Learning? Definition, Nature, Learning Process, Types

Need for Organisational Behavior

The need for Organisational behaviour can be discussed as follows:

1. Explain individual and group behavior

We are pursuing the explanation objective when we want to know why individuals or groups behave the way they do. For example, if the turnover rate in an Organisation is very high, we want to know the reason, so that action can be taken to correct the situation in the future.

2.Predict certain behavioural response to change

Prediction seeks to determine what outcomes will result from a given action. Having a sound knowledge of OB will help the manager to predict certain behavioural responses to change. In this way, the manager can anticipate which approaches will generate the least degree of employee resistance and use that information in making decisions.

3. Control Behaviour

The knowledge of OB can be used by managers to control behaviour. Managers frequently see the control objective as the most valuable contribution that OB makes toward their effectiveness on the job.

Objectives of Organizational Behavior

Organizational behavior has four important roles or objectives in any organization— the human resources approach, the contingency approach, the system approach and the productivity approach.

4 Approaches to Organizational Behavior studies

Human Resources Approach

Organizational behaviour is mainly interested in the development of its human resources. The employees’ growth and development in an organization are basic requirements for its continuous growth and survival. Traditionally, managers were important for deciding on task performances and carrying them out successfully under their directions.

Contingency Approach

Behavioural science is being used for solving problems which may arise at any time. Behavioural knowledge is being applied to solve these problems. Employees are therefore trained to face any sort of problems. They should have the capacity to meet the challenges of the environment.

Different situations require different functions and behavioural approaches. It is known as the contingency approach because it believes that there is no such thing as the best way to handle the problem.

The contingency approach is an interdisciplinary and systemoriented approach of management. There is no perfect style of management.

System Approach

The system approach includes several subsystems which exist in an organization, and therefore affect each other. Managers have to look beyond immediate situations to foresee future situations.

The purpose is to improve organizational behaviour for effective management. A system is developed where people work in a congenial atmosphere. The theories of organizational behaviour are applied to the system for achieving organizational goals.

Productivity Approach

The ultimate objective of organizational behaviour is to increase productivity. With the given inputs, if production is improved, it is a symbol of productivity improvement.

The human behaviour is developed for performing jobs in an effective manner. If people’s knowledge and skills are developed, their abilities to perform tasks also increase. Organizational behaviour influences people’s knowledge, skill, attitude, ability and performance potential.

Read: What is Attitude? Meaning, Functions, Types, Importance

Key elements of Organizational Behavior

Elements of Organizational Behaviour
Elements of Organizational Behaviour


People are the main component of any organization that has to be managed. Every individual has a personal goal to be achieved. Organizations must identify the need spectrum of individuals and take suitable steps for its fulfillment to enable them to perform effectively so that they complete their allotted task in time.


When we talk about managing people in the organization, what we have to study and manage is the influence of culture and its impact on the individual. Study of the environment is very wide and encompasses economic, cultural, social, government rules and regulations, legal aspects, political climate, demographics and its impact.


There are two types of organizations, formal and informal. Informal organizations do not have a specified structure. Formal organizations are build based upon the objective set for it. Organizational structure in such organization is hierarchical in nature, with people at each level having their own objectives, which contributes towards the fulfillment of over allorganizational objectives.


Managing technology is an important job of any management. It is an important element of any unit. Selection of technology, procurement, installation, operation and maintenance is important and no compromise should be made in procuring latest or advanced technology.

Contributing Disciplines to the Organizational Behavior field

Organizational behavior is an applied behavioral science built on contributions from a number of behavioral disciplines, mainly psychology and social psychology, sociology, and anthropology.

The major disciplines are:

  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Political Sciences
  • Economics

Why Organizational Behavior is Important?

  • OB provides a road map to our lives in organizations

    Every one of us has an inherent need to know about the world in which we live. This is particularly true in organizations, as they have a profound effect on our actions and behaviours.

  • OB uses scientific research to help us understand and predict organizational life

    This is not to say that this knowledge is absolute. The decisions and actions that people in organizations make are determined by a complex combination of factors. Besides, the field of OB is not a pure science.

  • OB helps us influence organizational events

    Though it is good to understand and predict organizational events, most of us want to influence the environment in which we live.

  • OB helps an individual understand himself/herself and others better

    This helps improve interpersonal relations considerably. Of particular significance are topics like attitude, perception, leadership, communication, and conflict, an understanding of which will change the very style of talking and functioning of an individual.

  • OB is useful for maintaining cordial industrial relations

    If an employee is slow in his or her work, or if his or her productivity is steadily declining, it is not always because of denial of promotion or a poor work environment. The relations between management and employees are often strained for reasons which are personnel issues, not technical.

  • It is a discipline which enables a manager to motivate his or her subordinates towards higher productivity and better results.

Read: What is Motivation? | Definition, Types, Theories, Importance

Why study organizational behavior?

Why study organizational behaviour? - Geektonight
Why study organizational behaviour?

Understand organizational events

The main reason for studying organizational behaviour is that most of us work in organizations, so we need to understand, predict, and influence the behaviours of others in organizational settings.

But all of us need organizational behaviour knowledge to address people issues when we try to apply marketing, computer science, and other ideas.

Predict organizational events

Satisfying the need to understand and predict

Every one of us has an inherent need to know about the world in which we live. This is particularly true in organizations because of their profound effect on our lives.

Influencing organizational events

It’s nice to understand and predict organizational events, but most of us want to influence the environment in which we live. OB knowledge will help you to influence organizational events.

Challenges for Organizational Behavior (OB)

  • The Changing Social and Cultural Environment
  • The Evolving Global Environment
  • Advancing Information Technology
  • Shifting Workforce Diversity and Employment Relationships
  • Responding to Economic Pressures
  • Improving People Skills
  • Helping Employees Balance Work–Life Conflicts

Models of Organisational Behaviour

OB Model proposes three types of variables (inputs, processes, and outcomes) at three levels of analysis (individual, group, and organizational). The model proceeds from left to right, with inputs leading to processes and processes leading to outcomes. Notice that the model also shows that outcomes can influence inputs in the future.

Models of Organisational Behaviour - Geektonight
Models of Organisational Behaviour

Three types of variables of OD Model:


Inputs are the variables like personality, group structure, and organizational culture that lead to processes. These variables set the stage for what will occur in an organization later.


Processes are actions that individuals, groups, and organizations engage in as a result of inputs and that lead to certain outcomes.


Outcomes are the key variables that you want to explain or predict, and that are affected by some other variables.

Read: What is Organizational Development | OD Meaning, Concept

Organizational Behavior Management

Organizational behavior management (OBM) is a form of applied behavior analysis (ABA) which applies psychological principles of organizational behavior and the experimental analysis of behavior to organizations to improve individual and group performance and worker safety. The areas of application may include systems analysis, management, training, and performance improvement. OBM resembles human resource management but places more emphasis on ABA and systems-level focus. (Wikipedia)

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